Review: Trek down ‘Foot Fist Way’

Fred Simmons is a crude caricature of a human being, boorishly oblivious and misanthropic in his dealings with his adulterous wife (Mary Jane Bostic) and the students at his tae kwon do academy.

If there’s anything to like about him — and that’s a big if — it is the unquestioning (and more than a little bewildering) passion he brings to his craft. As a martial-arts instructor and self-proclaimed “master of the demo,” he preaches the warrior’s code but rarely exhibits any discipline of his own.

As played by Danny McBride (“Hot Rod”), who sports a close crew cut and prominent mustache to complement his 1,000-yard stare, Simmons is the kind of stupefying, yet strangely charismatic misfit who will likely invite comparison to another antisocial dweeb, Napoleon Dynamite.

Both are narcissists, crass and cringe-worthy. But while Napoleon’s journey was sweet and oddly uplifting, Simmons’ odyssey, with all its setbacks and abject humiliations, is far more sobering.

Perhaps that is what attracted Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, the comedy-writing duo responsible for “Anchorman” and “Talladega Nights,” to “The Foot Fist Way,” a no-budget indie shot during 19 days in North Carolina and first screened two years ago at the Sundance Film Festival.

It was their patronage that earned first-time director Jody Hill, McBride and Ben Best (on hand as a hard-partying Chuck Norris type in need of an attitude adjustment) their deal with MTV Films, and that’s a good thing.

Despite its occasionally sluggish pace and dour tone, “Foot Fist Way” is wickedly profane and very funny, a welcome oddity during a summer dominated by heroes of a less pedestrian bent.

It’s also a showcase for McBride, who never so much as hints at being in on the joke. Sure, he’s ridiculous, but he’s not lacking in conviction. He is the center of his own universe, however uninformed it might be, casually offering up mystifying observations (“Dentistry? I can’t even believe that’s something that’s real.”) in his trademark deadpan.

McBride sells the character with a straight face at all times, making it that much harder to watch when Simmons settles into full-fledged train-wreck mode.

By then, it’s hard not to feel a dash of empathy for this hapless buffoon, especially when he catches his wife and longtime hero (Best) in the act. Beneath all the macho bluster, Simmons has a heart, though you’d never know it as he loudly encourages one of his most vicious pupils to pummel a senior citizen, simply because fighting hard is what you’re supposed to do, always.

That is Simmons’ charm and his curse — as a relentless scrapper in a world intent on beating him down, his spirit and perseverance are eclipsed only by his utter lack of a clue.

CREDITS

The Foot Fist Way (3 stars)

Starring Danny McBride, Ben Best, Mary Jane Bostic, Jody Hill, Collette Wolfe

Written by Ben Best, Jody Hill and Danny McBride

Directed by Jody Hill

Rated R

Running time 1 hour 25 minutes

artsentertainmentOther Arts

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

After the pandemic hit, Twin Peaks Boulevard was closed to vehicle traffic, a situation lauded by open space advocates. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
New proposal to partially reopen Twin Peaks to vehicles pleases no one

Neighbors say closure brought crime into residential streets, while advocates seek more open space

Protesters rally at the site of a proposed affordable housing project at 2550 Irving St. in the Sunset District on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021. (Ming Vong/S.F. Examiner)
Sunset District affordable housing discussion flooded with ‘scare tactics and hysteria’

Project would provide 100 units, some of which would be designated for formerly homeless families

Members of the Sheriff’s Department command staff wore masks at a swearing-in ceremony for Assistant Sheriff Tanzanika Carter. One attendee later tested positive. 
Courtesy SFSD
Sheriff sees increase in COVID-19 cases as 3 captains test positive

Command staff among 10 infected members in past week

Rainy weather is expected in the coming week. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Rainstorms, potential atmospheric river expected to drench Bay Area in coming week

By Eli Walsh Bay City News Foundation Multiple rainstorms, cold temperatures some… Continue reading

U.S. Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman’s powerful reading was among the highlights of Inauguration Day. (Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
Inauguration shines light in this never-ending shade

Here’s to renewal and resolve in 2021 and beyond

Most Read